Jazz at the Movies Band

It's a Wonderful Life: Sax at the Movies for Christmas

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Pianist Bill Cunliffe, his Jazz at the Movies Band and guests (trumpeter Bobby Shew, Gary Foster on alto and tenor, and tenor-saxophonist Nino Tempo), perform 13 Christmas-related songs that appeared in movies. Some of the tunes (for example "Winter Wonderland" which happened to be used in When Harry Met Sally) were on soundtracks long after they were written; but somehow one does not identify "The Christmas Song" with Home Alone 2. In addition, there are a few recent movie songs ("Christmas Will Return" and "Santa's Theme" among them) that have not caught on. "Winter Wonderland" cooks, but most of the other themes are taken at ballad tempos with synthesized strings in the background. Gary Foster is on eight numbers (three of which also have Bobby Shew), while Nino Tempo (often imitating Stan Getz) is on four others, and "Auld Lang Syne" wraps up the date with a Cunliffe piano solo. Overall, this is a relaxed set of pleasing melodic performances, but if more attention had been paid to varying tempos and moods (not to mention taking a few chances), the easy-listening effort could have been more than just background music.

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